So last week I made both a mistake and a great move in one go. Let me explain:

What I did

It’s common for people to maintain a professional update mailing list. You will likely be on many of them. But normally, they aren’t managed through mailing list software like MailChimp, Drip or ConstantContact: they will be done by the sender doing a large BCC to their address book.

There’s no problem with this, except that if you don’t want to receive those updates, it can be somewhat embarrassing to reply to the sender and say “Hey, remove me!”

So I decided to put my own list onto MailChimp, and let them know, so that they could unsubscribe at anytime if they wish. I also put a link in, so that if people wanted, they could get my weekly newsletter (which you’ve getting now, of course!)

What happened

And well, the response… oh boy!

Some people replied with lovely comments, and best of all, some people decided to joining my weekly newsletter (*waves* – welcome!) that I’d never probably ask directly for one reason for another. I also had a spike in book sales. These people were engaged.

On the other hand, some people were frustrated and angry, and said as much. And some people, while they didn’t say anything to me, quietly unsubscribed all the same, which even though was the whole point, it surprised me to see that people I thought I was close with didn’t want to receive a few emails a year from me. Clearly all these people were disengaged.

So now I’m in a situation where some people want to hear from me more, and some are actively against hearing from me.

And that’s the thing about engagement – and heck, even life, as I’m sure we all know – what engages one may well disengage another.

What to do?

Now is this instance, I’d go back and do it differently if I could: I imagine that if I’d sent a huge opt-in email, I would’ve got the same people engaged, and maybe reduced some of the disengagement – at least, not got any frustrated responses.

But even then I would’ve still had some people who wanted to be on my list miss the email (and thus miss being connected), and still had people who did NOT join the list that I really thought would.

And so the principle still stares at us: what engages one may well disengage another.

A few ideas for mitigating this include:

  • Explain why you’re doing what you’re doing, which is proven to increase engagement and decrease disengagement, particular on an interpersonal level (I can’t remember the study where I read this but will share it once I find it)
  • Segment as much as you can – although this is always based on your own assumptions, and might mean you lose out on people who would’ve engaged with you – as the law of scattering says, you never know who’ll respond!
  • Approach the disengaged again, with a further reasoning, an apology, a plea, etc. We all know how great customer service can turn a detractor into an advocate.
  • Accept that the equal and opposite force to people being highly engaged is that some will be disengaged, and that’s ok: serve the former group, the ones that gather to you, and don’t worry about the latter group.

If you fancy it, let me know which you’d choose…